Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Experimenting Bareback

Well...the saddle arrived...and I have no idea whether it fits. You know when someone says 'obviously you'll know whether it basically fits or not'...well I don't. I have always been absolutely useless at judging the fit of saddles, and I have lost all faith in getting a saddle to fit Echo recently. It's so frustrating.

I popped the Ideal Jessica on her the day it arrived, but only literally dropped it on her back to have a look, and my first impressions were pretty positive. I think it looks quite short, but that is the length my saddler told me to go for, as Echo tends to push the saddle forwards onto her shoulders if it's any longer.

I then lunged her in it on Friday and had a proper look at it and...I don't know! I think it needs adjusting, as it seemed to sit a bit high at the back, but I hope that this will be possible. I had a chat with a friend yesterday about it and she was explaining that as Echo has next to no muscle tone at the moment, saddles are not going to fit her that well. As long as it isn't pinching and I can pad it out underneath to fit, then it will give her muscles the space to build up correctly under it.

So, feeling a little despondent about it all, I decided to ride her bareback on Monday. It was the hottest day of the year (so I figured she'd be a little lethargic) and so I just lunged her gently in a polypad and surcingle for 15 minutes. Then I got on! She was a little surprised, and walked fairly hesitantly for a minute or so, stopping regularly to check that I was seriously going to make her walk like this, then I think as I relaxed, she relaxed and she really started to enjoy it. She stretched her neck down and strode out happily.

It was so unbelievably good to be sitting on my horse again - I was grinning from ear to ear and all I was doing was walking! We had a hairy moment near the beginning when she spooked at something in the bushes. Gripping with knees and no saddle equals one very big response from Echo!

I walked her forward on both reins, doing a few circles and just a couple of steps of leg yielding, then had a trot down the long side on each rein. I actually think that if I can be brave enough, I'd be better off cantering, as it would be more comforable for both of us. I don't know if I did the right thing putting the polypad and surcingle on, but it definitely made me feel a little more secure and comfortable.

She was a little reluctant to take a contact to begin with and I couldn't work out why. But then I realised that I have changed her bit since I last rode her - the dentist recommended that I get her a thinner, double jointed bit with a lozenge in the middle. I can imagine this feels quite different, and, although she's used to it on the lunge, she hasn't really ever had any contact on it before.

The saddler is coming out tomorrow to take a look at this saddle and I have absolutely everything crossed that she can make it fit somehow. Echo has put on quite a bit of weight round her shoulders, but this is usually the place she loses it from first, so this makes saddle fitting a little tricky!

I imagine that if she can alter it she will take it away with her, so I expect we will get to have a few more bareback adventures in the next week or so.


I meant to post yesterday too - as yesterday was Echo's 7th birthday! I know I've posted this pic before, but it's cute enough to look at twice I reckon! This is Echo at a few hours old.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Exciting things

The last few months have been rather exciting. So although I haven't been riding, the future is starting to take shape. This year I've been doing a Master's degree in journalism, living at home with my parents while doing the course. It has been incredibly hard work - even more than I thought it would be, but also extremely rewarding.

As part of my course, I had to do a 2 week placement at a newspaper or magazine. I sent out loads of emails with my CV, asking if they would take a work experience placement, but had very little success. However, I then sent an email to Horse magazine - one of the national monthly equestrian magazines - and had a reply within about 20 minutes, saying that I could definitely go there and to let them know my dates. It was so exciting - writing for a magazine like that has been a dream for so long!

Horse is based in London, so I had to leave Echo with the person who shares the field. It was the most awesome two weeks ever - I got to write one of the magazine's main news articles on horse passports (on which I am now an expert!) and then do all sorts of interesting things, including interviewing Joanne Eccles, the World champion vaulter, writing an article on building your own stables and writing captions for readers' photos of their horses.

It was tough, particularly writing the news article - I am much more of a features specialist and I found the hard news style quite a challenge, but they were happy with it and it got published in this month's edition, which was unbelievably exciting! I have more things in the issue coming out at the end of this month too, so my name should keep appearing for a while.

I left there on a real high - then a week later, just as I was finishing all my university work, I had an email from the editor, commissioning me to write two more features for them - paid this time - for future issues. How flattering is that?! I was absolutely over the moon. It's come at a pretty tricky time though...I had to finish all the work for last semester; I'm also teaching part time at a local school to earn enough money to live, then I've also been marking exam papers, so time-wise it wasn't great...but I did it! I have now written an article on the information you need if you're considering sharing a horse and one on adults who choose to ride ponies rather than horses. The latter, particularly, was great fun and I got to speak to some really interesting people.

I think the editor was pretty happy with what I wrote, and she's said she'll keep me in mind for future articles - I have also said that I will continue to suggest feature ideas, as it shows enthusiasm and commitment. And NOW...a job has just come up at one of the other national equestrian magazines. But it's in the wrong place in the country. Damn. I think I'm going to apply for it anyway, as the experience of applying is so useful, but seriously - I would LOVE that job.

So with my career looking a little more structured, I can fill you in on what's been happening with Echo. The answer? Not a lot. Her mysterious weight-loss problem disappeared when we moved them onto a field with lots of grass (funny that!) and she is now probably too far the other way. We had our field fertilised and rested for a few weeks, and now they're back on it and looking really well. I now just need to get her back into work!

With the articles done and everything at uni except my final project finished, I can start spending a bit more time with her now. I lunged her yesterday and it was a bit depressing - she was absolutely wild - has forgotten all her manners and didn't seem interested in doing what I wanted her to at all. However, the reason I am all motivated to get her going again is that I have just bought a new saddle! It was a bit of an impulse buy - I saw it on ebay and the auction was ending soon. It was a good price and the style and size that I have been told she needs, so I just went for it! It arrived today and I put it on after lunging her. Now, I don't trust my judgement at all, so I have a saddler coming out next week to look at it, but I think it might fit. She is bound to lose her excess weight when she starts working properly, so there will have to be some adjustment, but it does look like it sits on her quite well.

I will have a proper look at it on Thursday and perhaps lunge her in it. She was much more sane and sensible today, so it seems that she hasn't forgotten everything after all. I absolutely can't wait to get back on - it's been far too long!

The next bit of news is that we're moving back to where we were soon - but I'll write more about that next time. We will be here until the end of July, then moving back to our old area...although not our old yard, as my change of career is going to require DIY livery. And perhaps a sharer, but more about that later too!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.